If you haven’t heard, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is kind of a big deal. Just how big?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records®, there is no other place on earth where a beer aficionado can find more beers on tap. Tasting sessions will offer some 60,000 attendees the opportunity to tour America’s brewing landscape, one ounce at a time, with access to almost 4000 different beers from nearly 800 of the nation’s finest breweries. Think you can taste them all? Not likely, at 1 small ounce each, that would be 250 pints of beer in 3 days!?! And that is just the tasting portion of the fest.
GABF is also the biggest Beer Competition in America and this year they’re aiming to judge around 7000 beers. Since this year’s numbers aren’t quite final yet, here is a look at what happened last year at the 2015 GABF: 6647 Beers were judged by 242 judges from 15 countries. 275 Medals were awarded over 92 categories of beer that covered 145 different, although sometimes similar styles. The most popular style, American IPA, reached a ridiculous 336 beers competing for just 3 awards.
Yup, it is getting harder and harder to win an award here. But, boy, if you do, it can make an immediate impact. I was bartending and had just started training to brew (hmm, coincidence!?) at the Dillon DAM Brewery when they won their first one back in 2001, Silver for Dam Straight Lager. Suddenly, due to the time constraints of lagering, Dam Straight demanded 2 of our 4 fermenters and even doubling production didn’t mean we could fill all the requests. We were getting phone calls and emails from around the country asking for Lager and we weren’t even distributing to half of Colorado. Then, in Spring of 2002 we won Gold at the World Beer Cup for Sweet George’s Brown, and again, demand sky rocketed and Boom! Brown was what we sold the most kegs and cases of.
For the Brewers though, GABF is a lot more than winning or not. You get a firsthand look at new ideas, equipment, processes and possibilities. You get to sample the hot trends and begin to formulate new seasonals and/or collaborations with other brewers. Have a troublesome mechanical issue at your brewery? Chances are you’ll stumble in to some other brewer who has been through it and can help point you in the right direction. And then after the fest hall, Denver is a booming downtown full of breweries, beer bars, great food and live music to enjoy and gather ideas from.
This year, The Bakers’ Brewery will be pouring 5 beers in the Meet The Brewer area. This section features a lack of volunteers (who may or may not know anything about beer other than which hole it goes in…Just Kidding, most of them are Awesome!!) and is instead fully manned by employees of the breweries. In addition to our brewers (who also like to drink other people’s brews!) we will have managers, bartenders, servers and investors taking turns running the booth, handing out samples and answering questions.
Speaking of tasting other brewers’ beers, where does one start when that break finally arrives!? Well, obviously, the options are endless! Some folks like to focus, on one style per evening, like seeking out all IPAs or Porters or Sours. Personally, I like to tour the country a bit. So many amazing beers are brewed out in California, so that section is always high on my agenda. I grew up in Minnesota, so I also always make a bit of time for a trip through the mid-north. Saturday afternoon and evening walk-abouts usually involve seeking out the Award Winners in any styles I entered for comparison and critiquing.
Well there it is and here we go, the Brewers’ Awards are tomorrow (Saturday)!. Wish us Luck!!
Sincerely, Thanks for reading! Cheers!!